Two brothers in two different industries rise to the top to provide the DMV with entertainment.
By Brittni Guevara
In many industries, it’s hard to tell who the big guys are behind the scenes. If you’re out at Public Bar, you’re probably looking at that hot bartender who’s keeping the drinks flowing. If you’re listening to the Kane Show morning show on HOT 995, you’re more than likely laughing at Kane, Sarah and Samy’s crazy antics.
But who is it that built Public and made it one of the hottest spots in the district? And what about the guy who produces and delivers the Kane Show each morning, making it the most popular show in the DMV? Well, those mystery men are Edwin and Erick Villegas, two brothers running the show behind the scenes.
Edwin, 40, is the president and CEO of Winmar Construction, headquartered in Georgetown. He has worked in the development, construction and ownership of many well-known buildings around the district, including Garage which became Club Five and what is now Public Bar and Sushi Rock in Arlington.
Erick, 29, is the head technical producer, and a familiar voice, on the top rated morning show in the DMV area, The Kane Show on HOT 995, stationed in Rockville, Md. Before helping the Kane Show average out over 1.4 million listeners, beating the number for WTOP, Erick interned and worked for Z104 radio station until 2003.
Growing up in the district, the Villegas brothers can easily relate to the interests of the audiences each of their industries targets. Edwin must keep up with the latest nightlife trends and Erick has to be sure the juiciest topics are being discussed on the Kane Show. Both tasks call for a keen eye for trends and lots of long hours.
“This isn’t a 9-5. It’s a lifestyle,” said Erick, with a strong sense of passion in his voice. “You can’t stop working. You’re always observing what’s going on, interacting with people, answering emails. You’re always trying to stay as connected to your fan base as you possibly can.”
And although Edwin may not interact directly with bar-hoppers who frequent the Public bars, one in Tenleytown and another in Dupont, he has to stay aware of what drinks and foods are the tastiest, what styles are the trendiest and what music keeps the party going.
Edwin has been in the construction and development game for almost two decades. With most bars and clubs stressing VIP tables with $600 bottle minimums these days, he wanted to approach nightlife a bit differently than the rest.
“I think Public is a reflection of the change in times. The logo for Public is ‘For the people, by the people’ because you can come in dressed like that,” Edwin said, pointing to his brother wearing cargo shorts and a polo shirt, “Or you might be the Vice President of Pepco, you know. It doesn’t matter who you are. I wanted to create an environment that gives you V.I.P. luxury, V.I.P. service but you don’t have to buy a bottle, be dressed to the nine or come in with ten girls. It’s a change in times. I don’t think Public would have lasted this way in 2007.”
The Villegas brothers may seem to have everything all together, but it wasn’t an easy road to the top. Both of their parents, originally from Venezuela, came to the United States thirty-some years ago with the hopes of building a better life for their children.
The move did provide them with more opportunities, and Edwin and Erick, with their sister Eunice who is a Nursing Director at Washington Hospital Center, learned the true meaning of hard work and dedication.
“[We grew] up watching them sacrifice, working two jobs, taking care of us, putting [Edwin] and my sister through private universities,” Erick explained.
“They had no money and they had no other family here,” Edwin said. “So, there was never an excuse for why we couldn’t work.”
Through the obstacles, however, the Villegas made it. Statistically, according to the National Center of Children in Poverty, the Villegas children had a 1 in 3 chance of living and staying in poverty since both their parents came from out of the country. That, however, was never an option to them.
Erick, who had to hold down the fort after his older brother and sister left for college, graduated from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda and immediately found an interest in radio. From there, it was no turning back.
“I’ve always been the comedian in the family, and I’ve always been the entertainer,” Erick said. “Growing up in this area, I listened to radio and I also listened to Howard Stern a lot. I was like ‘I wanna be Howard, and I wanna be better than Howard.’ From day one, I wanted to entertain and I knew I could do it because I could always make people laugh.”
The fun-filled jobs, local fame and perks may seem like the best part, but Edwin and Erick just want to be the best at what they do.
“I want to dominate and be everywhere,” Erick said. “I want to be like [Ryan] Seacrest, and if The Kane Show gets to that, that’s great. But if I get to that, that’s even better. To succeed, you got to keep pushing and that’s what we learned from our parents.”
An obviously huge part of their lives, Edwin and Erick made it a point to stay close for their family. Although Edwin once lived in Miami, he, Erick and their family, which includes their adopted sister Frannie, now live only a or two mile away from each other in Bethesda. At the end of the day, family has always been their biggest influence.
“Having glitz, having Public and having the show, it’s all good for perks and stuff, but really what does it all mean?” Edwin said. “Some people got lucky, but some people got there because of other people’s work. Our parents have worked so hard to put us through everything to get here.”
“The second [The Kane Show goes] national, I want to send my parents off and give them everything they want,” Erick said. “They’re the ones that kept me on that path to where I am and where I’m going to go in the future.”
And although the future isn’t predictable, Erick and Edwin have already provided the DMV with laughs, parties and lots of good times.
Public Bar? Check. Kane Show? Check. What’s next? Well, we’ll have to stick around and see.